For Russia, 2020 was a mixed year in terms of launch. Once the world’s leader in sending payloads into space, the nation finished a distant third behind the United States and China with only 17 orbital flights. That figure was eight below the 25 launches in 2019, and Russia’s lowest number of the 21st century. The U.S. and China finished with 44 and 39 launch attempts, respectively.
On the bright side, 2020 was the second year in a row in which Russia did not experience a launch failure. That streak came after more a decade during which the Russian launch industry was plagued with multiple fmishaps.
SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.
First in a series
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.
Russia recently marked the 25th anniversary of the entry of the Proton rocket into the international commercial marketplace. On April 8, 1996, a Proton-K booster with a DM3 upper stage launched the Astra 1F geosynchronous communications satellite built by U.S.-based Hughes for Luxembourg’s SES from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Well, this is interesting. And by interest, I mean what cynics had been predicting all along.
In the space of a couple of weeks, Russia’s plan for the future of the International Space Station (ISS) shifted from full withdrawal in 2025, to gradual withdrawal and the launch of a new Russian-only station beginning in 2025, to we’re fine with extending ISS to 2028 and we’ll start launching our new station then.
MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The new production facilities of the Khrunichev Center (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) will make it possible to produce up to ten missiles of the Angara family per year. In two cities of Russia, large-scale preparations are underway for the start of the serial production of missiles of this family. More details about the strategy and principles of organizing production, delimiting areas of responsibility between sites, the near and medium-term prospects of the heavy and light version of Angara.
MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — General Director of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities Dmitry Rogozin reported to President Vladimir Putin on the corporation’s performance in 2020 and plans for the near term.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Rogozin, let us have an in-depth discussion on the corporation’s performance in 2020. The issues we will discuss include carrier rocket launches, the state of the orbital group, your plans, fundamental space research, and, of course, the financial indicators. Please, go ahead.
General Director of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin: Mr. President, last year we posted good results overall. For a second year running since 1993, there were no accidents. This is certainly a positive indicator – I hope we will continue in the same manner – of improved discipline in the sector as a whole and the reliability of our rocket and space technology.
MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The outgoing year 2020 has become a difficult test for the entire world marked by the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many world economic players have encountered objective difficulties in the implementation of previously outlined plans.
Unfortunately, Roscosmos also had to correct a number of plans, including those related to launch activities. Nevertheless, Roscosmos management put the quality of production and the safety of personnel working at the Russian rocket and space industry enterprises and cosmodromes at the forefront.
MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Today, December 14, 2020, at 05:50 UTC, the Angara-A5 heavy-class carrier rocket was successfully launched from Russia’s Ministry of Defence State Test Space Center (Plesetsk cosmodrome) as part of flight design tests of the Angara rocket space complex. The launch vehicle was acquired by ground means of the VKS Titov Main Test Space Center.
Prelaunch preparation and launch of the carrier rocket were conducted by combat crews of the Space Forces of the Aerospace Forces and enterprises of Roscosmos. At the estimated time, 12 minutes 28 seconds after the liftoff, the Angara-A5.2L space rocket orbital block including the Briz-M upper stage and a spacecraft weight mockup separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle. Further injection of the orbital block into the target orbit is carried out with the help of the Briz-M propulsion system.
Universal rocket modules URM-1 and URM-2 serve as the basis for the Angara family carrier rocket development. Various class Angara launch vehicles are built using several universal rocket modules. One URM-1 is used as part of the Angara-1.2 light-class launch vehicles. The maximum number of URM-1 can be a three-stage heavy-class Angara-A5 launch vehicle.
Angara rockets do not use aggressive and toxic propellants significantly increasing environmental safety both in the areas adjacent to the launch complex and in the drop zones. Russia’s Ministry of Defense and Roscosmos are the government customers of the Angara space rocket complex, with Khrunichev Center being the lead developer and manufacturer.
MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The management of the State Corporation “Roscosmos” considers the launch of production of the Angara launch vehicles at the Omsk “POLET” Production Association (a branch of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and a part of Roscosmos) is a priority task for the Corporation.
Tight control is exercised over this year’s production of the first batch of the Angara LVs, as well as over their transfer to the customer – the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Until the reconstruction of the POLET plant is completed, the Khrunichev Center plans to produce two Angara-A5 heavy launch vehicles and one Angara-1.2 light LV per year.
In view of that, during the transition period, payload orbiting will be executed using partially the Proton-M launch vehicle, and partially the new Angara LVs. The target production capacity of Angara LVs will be eight heavy LVs and two light LVs per year.
Sputnikreports that Roscosmos will devote more than 8 billion rubles ($130.7 million) in additional funding for development of the Oryol (Eagle) beginning next year.
The contract with Energia would fund the construction of two Oryol spacecraft. They are designed to replace the Soyuz transport that has been in use since 1967 and allow cosmonauts to perform lunar and deep space missions. The spacecraft was formerly known as Federatsiya (Federation).
An Oryol mockup would be launched on the Angara A5 heavy booster in 2023, Sputnik reported. A flight test to the International Space Station is planned for 2025, followed by a lunar flyby in 2029 and a landing on the surface the following year.
The additional funding will also be used for the testing of the Yenisei super-heavy booster in 2028, Sputnik said.
MOSCOW (President Putin PR) — Vladimir Putin had a meeting with General Director of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities Dmitry Rogozin to discuss the performance and development plans for the space industry.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Rogozin, let us discuss the space industry’s performance last year and development plans.
General Director of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities Dmitry Rogozin: Mr President,
We were working to improve our performance in three fields. The first had to do with the choice of our development priorities. The second concerned the reduction of non-manufacturing expenses by at least 15 percent and increasing the corporation’s revenue by adopting new competences and entering new markets, about which I would like to speak later. We also needed to dramatically improve production discipline at the corporation and all the subordinate agencies. I have introduced a system of the officials’ personal responsibility for budget execution and have taken measures to reduce the corporation’s budget.
If you are among the millions of space enthusiasts who have been losing sleep over why Russia’s new Angara rocket hasn’t flown in more than four years, be prepared to snooze soundly again.
Ruetersreports that engineers have found a flaw in the engine of the Angara A5 booster that could cause it to explode in flight.
The issue with the Angara A5 was brought to attention by scientists at rocket engine manufacturer Energomash in a paper ahead of a space conference later this month.
The paper, reported by RIA news agency on Friday and published online, said the engines of the Angara A5 could produce low frequency oscillations that could ultimately destroy the rocket.
A special valve had been fitted to mitigate the issue, but in some cases the oscillations continued, it said. Energomash did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The Angara A5 rocket is the most powerful of a family of boosters designed to replace the Proton and other launch vehicles currently in the Russian arsenal. The Angara series is based around a common first stage core with additional strap-on stages.
The Reuters story says that Russian President Vladimir Putin is eager to see the rocket start launching more frequently because it is vital to the nation’s national defense.
The Angara 1.2PP rocket made the maiden flight test of the series on July 9, 2014. The booster flew a suborbital mission carrying a mass simulator from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia.
Angara A5 flew was launched from Plesetsk five months later on Dec. 23, 2014. Using a Briz-M upper stage, the booster placed a mass simulator into geosynchronous orbit.
The Wikipedia page for Angara lists two launches of the Angara A1.2 and one flight of Angara A5P for 2019. There is one Angara A1.2 flight listed for 2020. However, it is not clear whether this schedule is still valid; it came from a schedule compiled in late 2017.
Meeting with Executives of State Space Corporation Roscosmos
Vladimir Putin discussed plans for developing the missile and space industry and measures aimed at making the corporation more efficient with the executives of the State Space Corporation Roscosmos.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
I have invited you – this practically new Roscosmos team – to discuss plans for the development of the missile and space industry and specific decisions aimed at making your corporation more efficient.
RSC Energia has launched the development of a new human spacecraft named Federatsiya (Federation) that will replace the 40-year-old Soyuz vehicles and enable Russia to send cosmonauts to the moon, Tassreports.
Federation will be capable of carrying crews of four into Earth orbit and deep space on missions of up to 30 days. The spacecraft could stay in space up to a year if docked with a space station, which is double the duration of the Soyuz spacecraft.
The new spacecraft could be a key element in what appears to be an emerging plan to place a space station in lunar orbit. NASA is exploring such a facility to test technologies required for sending astronauts to Mars.